E-Scribe : a programmer’s blog

About Me

PBX I'm Paul Bissex. I build web applications using open source software, especially Django. Started my career doing graphic design for newspapers and magazines in the '90s. Then wrote tech commentary and reviews for Wired, Salon, Chicago Tribune, and others you never heard of. Then I built operations software at a photography school. Then I helped big media serve 40 million pages a day. Then I worked on a translation services API doing millions of dollars of business. Now I'm building the core platform of a global startup accelerator. Feel free to email me.


I co-wrote "Python Web Development with Django". It was the first book to cover the long-awaited Django 1.0. Published by Addison-Wesley and still in print!


Built using Django, served with gunicorn and nginx. The database is SQLite. Hosted on a FreeBSD VPS at Johncompanies.com. Comment-spam protection by Akismet.


Pile o'Tags

Stuff I Use

Bitbucket, Debian Linux, Django, Emacs, FreeBSD, Git, jQuery, LaunchBar, macOS, Markdown, Mercurial, Python, S3, SQLite, Sublime Text, xmonad

Spam Report

At least 237138 pieces of comment spam killed since 2008, mostly via Akismet.

International Freedom From Stupid Software Patents Day

LZW -- that is, the formerly patented Lempel-Ziv Welch compression algorithm -- is free today. The footnote on the Free Software Foundation's GIF history page says:

The Unisys patent expired on 20 June 2003 in the USA, in Europe it expired on 18 June 2004, in Japan the patent expired on 20 June 2004 and in Canada it expired on 7 July 2004. The U.S. IBM patent expired 11 August 2006, The Software Freedom Law Center says that after 1 October 2006, there will be no significant patent claims interfering with employment of the GIF format.

(Emphasis mine.) The patent they're referring to there is of course on LZW compression, not on GIF89a itself. LZW is used in other things, like TIFF compression, and, uh, V.42bis modems.

Once I understood the algorithm (David Mertz's Text Processing in Python has a good explanation of how it works), I thought, hey, that's really clever. Then I thought: that is what Unisys has been milking for patent royalties all these years?

I propose that today, October 1, become known as International Freedom From Stupid Software Patents Day. Let's celebrate.

Sunday, October 1st, 2006
+ + +

0 comments pending approval
Comment from James , 1 day later

Then I thought: that is what Unisys has been milking for patent royalties all these years?

Isn't inertia great? There really hasn't been any reason to use GIF for years -- PNG is better. The same issue exists with MP3 -- lossless formats with an open standard exist, but not enough people use them to change the defacto standard.

Comment from Jessica , 3 days later

"There really hasn't been any reason to use GIF for years — PNG is better."

PNG transparency is not supported by IE. There are javascript workarounds, etc, but they don't all work for every use.

Why is PNG better?

Comment from Roy , 16 weeks later


IE can't handle pages that are actually W3 compliant code either.

It's IE that is crap.... not PNG

IE is another example of Inertia.

Comments are closed for this post. But I welcome questions/comments via email or Twitter.